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INST 140 : Selecting A Topic

Resources to support your journey through INST 140

Selecting a Topic Intro

Often the most difficult task when assigned to research and present is selecting a topic. The tools on this page are meant to help you brainstorm/generate ideas for your project(s). Always select a topic that interests you, because you'll be spending a great deal of time with it! If you get stuck make an appointment with a librarian, we're great at generating ideas and helping start the research process. 

The video below reviews three common brainstorming methods. 

Generating Ideas/Topics


Selecting an area to investigate can seem daunting. So many issues, so many opportunities, where do I begin? The best way to select a topic is to START early. This will give you time start thinking, brainstorming, and investigating. Projects become stressful when we are researching topics we care little about, so be sure you pick something that truly interests you. i

Start by asking a few questions and making notes to yourself, but DO NOT judge any ideas in this beginning phase. Even "crazy" ideas can lead to a powerful topic for your project. Later your notes will help you recall ideas you may have forgotten in the process.  

  • What areas of cultural concern are of interest to you?
  • Do you have any personal experiences that draw you to a concern?
  • What values must an organization display to align with your values?
  • What are your career goals upon completion of your degree and can the area of concern and organizations deepen your understanding?
  • Have you read any interesting articles or books related to a concern?

The next step is to start identifying keywords related to your potential topic ideas. Try to break down your topic or research question into 2-4 overall main ideas; these main ideas become simple keywords which “point the way” to research in that area. Similar to the Topic Ideas Journal, keep a keyword list when you are researching a topic.

3 Strategies for Brainstorming Video

Tools for Brainstorming/Mind Mapping

Mind maps, are a useful tool during brainstorming, and idea generation. Sometimes they help you uncover related topics that may be of interest or better refined. Once your topic is refined research becomes much easier.

The Credo Reference database provides a Mind Map tool that displays the connections between Credo Reference search results in a visual, interactive and easy-to-use format. Follow the instructions below to view Mind Maps in Credo Reference.

  1. On the Library's home page, select Online Databases to navigate to Credo Reference.

  2. On the Credo Reference home page, search for your topic keywords using the basic search box, or select from the Research Popular Topics displayed. Note that Mind Maps exist for only broad-level topics, so it is important to keep your search terms broad.

  3. If a Mind Map exists for your topic, you will see it displayed on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on the Expand Mind Map button in the upper corner of the mind map to open it up (it's the box with the arrow). 

  4. The topics are clickable, and the larger the font the more popular the search.


An internet search for mind map software will reveal additional websites and software products for mind mapping.